All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2025

Friday, May 31, 2013

what I love about June

Bouquet season as I stroll through the garden!  Lily of the Valley , pale pink geranium with bridal wreath and antique yellow iris......

Sunday, May 26, 2013

goat cheese and spinach quiche with fresh dill

A few weeks ago, my neighbor quite suddenly called me and asked if I could make a few quiches for a gathering she was having.  I was stunned.  I suddenly realized I hadn't made a quiche in years.  Of course I said yes ( I do like a challenge) and immediately googled quiche, just to jiggle my brain. I knew the basics, but had forgotten the amounts.  In the end, the quiches were partly Julia and my memories of the amounts I'd used in the past - and the temperature, which I always keep on the low side, since we're talking cream and eggs.  The first quiche was traditional, but with Westphalian ham instead of bacon, and a fairly tasteless gruyere, which was all I could find in our rural area.  The second was much more fun , with shredded spinach, a heaping cup of crumbled goat cheese, nutmeg, and freshly minced dill.  Because I only had a day or two to prepare, I used a frozen pie crust, which was fine with me, as my pie crusts usually look...well...extremely rustic, even on the best of days:)  It came out looking as pretty as can be - and my neighbor sent me a thank you note for a quiche that was delicate, but creamy;  instead of rubbery and tough.

There are a few tedious parts to this recipe: washing the spinach, spinning it dry, destemming it, and blanching it briefly, then squeezing out the liquid and slicing it into thick ribbons.  To crumble the goat cheese, use a fork and pull out the cheese gently, so you don't have huge chunks.  Try to use everything as close to room temperature as you can, as that affects the baking.

Goat Cheese and Spinach quiche:
Preheat oven to 350 F.

1 frozen pie crust
2 T. soft unsalted butter
Spread the butter on the bottom of the crust, then pre-bake for 10 minutes in the upper third of your oven.  Remove and cool.

The quiche:

1 1/2 cups half and half
4 extra large eggs
good pinch of nutmeg, or several scrapings with a grater
1 heaping cup of crumbled goat cheese
2 T. minced fresh dill
1 T. minced fresh parsley
pinch kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 T. scallion (green onion ) tops, green part only, sliced
1 8 oz package mature spinach ( not baby spinach) washed, spun dry, de-stemmed, and sliced, then blanched (see below)  Or use 2 cups packed spinach prepared as above.

For the spinach:
Briefly blanch the prepared raw spinach in boiling water (5 minutes), strain, let cool, then squeeze out any remaining liquid.  Set aside.

In a bowl, whisk the half and half, the eggs, nutmeg, salt and pepper, dill, parsley, and the goat cheese until combined.  Add the squeezed spinach and whisk in with a fork, then add the scallion tops.

Pour into the pre-baked pie crust, and bake in upper third of oven for 45 minutes.  The quiche may puff up a bit, the center should be softly solid when you press it gently.  It will continue to bake as it cools.

Cool at least 15 minutes before cutting into wedges.

It has been cold, rainy, and windy here, after a few gorgeous sunny and warm days - too cold to plant the tomato seedlings, but the lilacs have stayed beautifully full and colorful, and so has the lady's mantle.  The radishes and sugar snap peas are poking through, but everything else is waiting for warmer weather.  May your forecast be sunny and warm!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Fresh strawberry and rhubarb stir-in sauce

Oh, the pink of Spring!  Right now the pale pink magnolia trees are blooming, the hot pink azaleas, the rainbows of tulips,  and the rhubarb plants range from pale green stalks to rich, ruby red under the umbrellas of dark green leaves.

For a long time, I didn't eat rhubarb.  When I went to an organic farm school in Lake Placid as a boarder in 7th and 8th grades, rhubarb was on the menu endlessly.  When you grow your own food in a cold climate, you make use of what thrives, and that meant rhubarb.  Just cooked with a little honey, it was tart and tasty - for a while.  But it appeared as dessert and breakfast over and over.  And over.

So I avoided rhubarb for a long time, until recently.  The first fresh fruit in May is hard to not take advantage of!  But I no longer make it only rhubarb, but temper it with the sweetness of strawberries, no yet ready here, so I buy them from the store.  

Barely simmered with a little water, delicious local honey, and a spoonful of minced fresh ginger, it makes a wonderful topping for my Greek yogurt in the morning.  Roasted chicken with a dipping side of sauce for lunch.  Goat cheese on thick bread with a spoonful of this jam is a treat in the afternoon.  And rhubarb sauce on ice cream rounds out dessert.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Sauce

First, wash the rhubarb and cut off the large leaves.  The leaves are toxic, so I usually toss them in the trash.  Slice into 1 to 2 inch pieces.  Trim and slice the strawberries into quarters.  Peel the ginger and mince.

2 1/2 cups sliced rhubarb
1 1/2 cups quartered strawberries
1/4 to 1/3 cup water 
3 heaping tablespoons local honey or more to taste
2 teaspoons minced, peeled fresh ginger
pinch of sea salt

Place all into a saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Stir until the rhubarb falls apart , usually about 7-10 minutes.  Take care not to scorch the fruit - some fruits are juicier than others.  If it looks dry, just add a little more water.  Set aside to cool.  Store in fridge.  This makes about 3+ cups of Springalicious sauce.

A year ago:  chilled chive and parsnip soup

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A delicious Mother's Day

With a new grandbaby , a two year old, and a seven year old, I thought it was a good time to make 
Mother's Day brunch for my daughter and daughter-in-law for them, heaven knows they have more than enough on their hands.

  A simple meal preparation  (as usual) stretched into several hours, in part because a new recipe caught my eye and we know how that goes:)  pleased to say this tzatziki recipe was fabulous first time out.  Boneless chicken breasts marinated in a yogurt-garlic-cumin sauce overnight, then baked and sliced, a fresh, zesty celebration of veggies:  cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, red onion and black olives, garlic, dill and parsley.  So good!   I served it with chunks of goat cheese  - as we all know, goat cheese makes everything even better.  Marinating the chicken in a yogurt sauce overnight made the chicken breasts incredibly tender and juicy and I plan to use that recipe often.  The whole dish was colorful and tasty, though I was temped to add more cumin and oregano, everyone else thought it was perfect as is.  A little side dish of sliced avocado and some warm pita pockets was all I added to the table - the kids love fresh, healthy food and ate everything.

For dessert, I made a platter of strawberries with confectioner's sugar, and Julia's strawberry clafouti with vanilla and cinnamon,  and some simple shortbread cookies , some chocolates from my son -definitely a Spring celebration!  And then?  They took us all out for ice cream sundaes at our local farmstand.  Somehow we made room....

Hope your Mother's Day was a treat as well!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

strawberry tartlets (the dud) and my little dove

I was so excited when I went to the swap shop at our dump on Saturday - I found these dear little tart pans tied up with green twine, and a pretty saucer.  You had a feeling the person who lovingly dropped them off had cherished them.  But, we all are decluttering, and I would imagine tart pans might be one of those unused kitchen things that go reluctantly into the Swap Shop box for the dump.

Sunday night I made a nut crust from a Martha Stewart book, but halved it, as I only wanted a few.  Stuck it in the fridge, and yesterday prepared the tartlet pans.  Into the oven, let cool, and....disaster.  They would not unmold.  I took a tiny sharp knife to the edges and they shattered into buttery crumbs.  I had one out of nine that remained more or less whole.  Mostly less.

Today I tried again, with the last half of the dough, but this time I greased every ridge carefully, and did the bottom twice.  Chilled, then baked and....again.  Disaster.  Again, one survived.  All I can think is that somehow in making half a recipe, I made a mistake, because Martha's recipes are usually pretty foolproof.

This dessert was based on one I used to make with cream puffs.  I used the cranberry and dark cherry jelly I made a few weeks ago to glaze the berries, heating just until the jelly melted, then using a teaspoon to drizzle on the fresh strawberries. With the cream puffs, I dolloped whipped cream on top, but this dessert was to be a little plainer, because of the rich nut crust.  The surviving tarts were delicious, but clearly something went wrong when you lose 80% of your desserts.

In the meantime, Spring has sprung !  I have a sweet little mourning dove pair that hang around, sometimes both, but often just one.  The daffodils have wilted in the hot (HOT!) afternoons, but the violets are sprinkling the lawn with their beautiful color.  Hard to believe two weeks ago I was still filling the woodstove at night.  Enjoy these beautiful days!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Focaccia with braised onions and anchovies, or kale, potato, and linguica

Forgive me for my absence - I have been obsessed with focaccia lately.  Well, that and the fact that Spring has sprung.  And that I have a new grand-baby.  And the joy that today is the start of the month of May.

Living in New Hampshire means long, cold winters, and by March and April we are so done with cold, and snow, and ice, and sleet - not to mention fuel bills, that by the first glimpse of bare ground and signs of the earth thawing, we go a little bananas.  We want more.  We cheer the daffodils poking through the dirt.  We cheer sugaring season.  We cheer the first night we don't wear two layers outside.

I have packed away my fleece sweatpants, worn nightly since December. I cheer the slow progress of the thermometer rising slowly, from -15 to a tropical 60 degrees.  And I get inventive with supper, first making a strongly flavored anchovy focaccia sprinkled with rosemary, then sliding toward a more acceptable (to those who didn't grow up with fish of any sort, from cod to smoked salmon and pickled herring , shad roe to sardines, which we had growing up on the Cape) kale, potato, and linguica ( a Portuguese sausage that is delectable) focaccia that was an instant hit.  

I use a recipe from Nick Malgieri's cookbook, The Modern Baker.  He has a distinctive way of making the dough (seen here) that makes a tender crust that is simply delicious.  I cut the recipe in half for a small focaccia for two or three.  

The focaccia dough:

2 cups King Arthur flour, all purpose
1 t. kosher salt
1 heaping teaspoon dried rapid-rise yeast
3/4 cup warm water plus a few tablespoons warm water if needed
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

Combine the flour and salt in a heat proof ceramic bowl.
Whisk the yeast into the warm water, then add the olive oil.
Using a rubber spatula, make a well in the flour and pour in the liquid.
Stir the liquid into the flour from the center in a circular motion, from inside to outside.
If the dough is too dry, add another tablespoon or two of water to the dough until it forms a soft ball.

Add a bit of olive oil to the bowl and roll the dough gently around , then cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
Briefly ( about three minutes)  preheat oven to 250F, turn off heat, and place bowl in oven until doubled in bulk - about an hour.

Grease a cookie sheet/jellyroll pan with olive oil and scrape dough into pan.  Gently pat and spread the dough with your fingers and palms, shaping a free form oblong shape.  Cover with oiled plastic wrap, and set back into the barely warm oven, letting it rise until doubled.

Remove the dough from the oven, turn heat to 400F.  Dimple the dough with your fingertips and drizzle with a tablespoon or so of olive oil.


Braised Onion and Anchovy topping:

1 large onion, peeled and sliced
1 T. olive oil
1/2 tin anchovy fillets in olive oil 
rosemary or oregano to taste
1 t. kosher salt
1/2-1 cup coarsely grated parmesan cheese

On slow heat in a skillet, braise the onions in the olive oil until very soft.  Stir in the anchovies and herbs.  Spread onto the focaccia dough and top with the parmesan.  Bake for 20 minutes, remove to cool.  Cut into squares and serve.

For the kale, potato, and linguica topping:

2 cups kale, torn off the stem
2 red potatoes, medium dice
4 tablespoons salsa ( I use Green Mountain Gringo)
1/2 package linguica, sliced or diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
Hefty drizzle of olive oil
1-2 t. kosher salt

 In large saucepan, simmer the potato in just enough water to cover until it is just tender.  Add the linguica and cook 10 minutes, then add the kale, cover, and cook until just wilted.  Using a spoon, spread the salsa sparingly on the dough.  Strain the potatoes, kale, and linguica,  and arrange on the dough then drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Bake in preheated 400F oven for 20 minutes, remove, cool, serve.

Happy Spring!